The Evening Blues - 10-13-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues harmonica player Peg Leg Sam. Enjoy!
Peg Leg Sam & Henry Rufe Johnson - Who Do You Love
“It is the considered belief of the writer of this book that wars are fought by the finest people that there are, or just say people, although, the closer you are to where they are fighting, the finer people you meet; but they are made, provoked and initiated by straight economic rivalries and by swine that stand to profit from them. I believe that all the people who stand to profit by a war and who help provoke it should be shot on the first day it starts by accredited representatives of the loyal citizens of their country who will fight it.”
-- Ernest Hemingway
News and Opinion
A short list of contractors that pour large sums of money into campaign contributions, lobbying, and industry-friendly think tanks benefits from the U.S. government's ongoing, decadeslong "nuclear modernization" plan worth up to $2 trillion, according to a report out Tuesday.
The issue brief—entitled Profiteers of Armageddon: Producers of the next generation of nuclear weapons—was authored by William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, who also outlined his report in Inkstick.
Hartung details how the U.S. departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) are ramping up a plan to build the next generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines as well as warheads, and the beneficiaries are major contractors along with operators of the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) nuclear weapons complex.
The brief notes the U.S. nuclear weapons budget has climbed in recent years to over $43 billion in the Biden administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, and warns that "this figure will grow dramatically," pointing to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that parts of the Pentagon's plan "will cost tens of billions each over the next decade, including $145 billion for ballistic missile submarines, $82 billion for the new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), and $53 billion for the new nuclear-armed bomber."
"And the costs will not end there," the report continues, noting that "the estimated lifetime cost of building and operating the new ICBM is $264 billion."
While "a handful of prime contractors" are the initial recipients and main beneficiaries of public money spent on bombers, missiles, and submarines, "the funds trickle down to subcontractors" that often include other prominent companies. The report names firms such as Bechtel, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.
Hartung directs attention to the millions of dollars in political activities by key contractors, writing that "while not all of this spending is devoted to lobbying on nuclear weapons programs, these expenditures are indicative of the political clout they can bring to bear on Congress as needed to sustain and expand the budgets for their nuclear weapons-related programs."
The brief also pushes back against "routinely exaggerated" claims about job creation that both companies and lawmakers use to promote nuclear weapons programs, and points out that contractors pump millions into supporting think tanks that opine on relevant policy.
Continued lobbying for the modernization plan "ignores the fact that building a new generation of nuclear weapons at this time will make the world a more dangerous place and increase the risk of nuclear war while fueling the new arms race," Hartung argues. "It's long past time that we stopped allowing special interest lobbying and corporate profits stand in the way of a more sensible nuclear policy."
While asserting that "the only way to be truly safe from nuclear weapons is to eliminate them altogether," in line with a global treaty that states with such weapons continue to oppose, Hartung also highlights that "the organization Global Zero has outlined an alternative nuclear posture that would eliminate ICBMs, reduce the numbers of bombers and ballistic missile submarines, and implement a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons as part of a 'deterrence-only' strategy that would reduce the danger of a nuclear conflict."
As global finance leaders gather this week in Washington for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund, Bruno Le Maire, the finance minister of France, made clear that effective French-American cooperation on an overhaul of the international tax system could not mask stark differences on China and other issues.
“The United States wants to confront China. The European Union wants to engage China,” Mr. Le Maire, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron of France, said in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the meetings. This was natural, he added, because the United States is the world’s leading power and does not “want China to become in a few years or in a few decades the first superpower in the world.”
Europe’s strategic priority, by contrast, is independence, “which means to be able to build more capacities on defense, to defend its own view on the fight against climate change, to defend its own economic interest, to have access to key technologies and not be too dependent on American technologies,” he said. ...
The key question now for the European Union, he said, is to become “independent from the United States, able to defend its own interests, whether economic or strategic interests.” Still, he added, the United States remains “our closest partner” in terms of values, economic model, respect for the rule of law, and embrace of freedom.
An Austrian environmental law group on Tuesday filed an official complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity for his administration's role in pushing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
The complaint by the organization, AllRise, highlights Bolsonaro's alleged actions since taking office in 2019 and their direct link to the heating of the planet, affecting not just Indigenous environmental defenders in the Amazon, but the global population as well.
"Crimes against nature are crimes against humanity," Johannes Wesemann, the founder of AllRise and its new project titled The Planet vs. Bolsonaro, said in a statement. "Jair Bolsonaro is fueling the mass destruction of the Amazon with eyes wide open and in full knowledge of the consequences. The ICC has a clear duty to investigate environmental crimes of such global gravity." ...
Since Bolsonaro took office, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has risen by as much as 88% as the extreme right-wing president has attempted to open up the forest to more economic development.
In July 2019, the number of fires set in the Amazon—a frequent occurrence driven by ranching, agricultural, and mining interests—jumped 28% compared to the year prior, with the country's National Institute for Space Research recording 6,803 blazes in a month.
In the first year of Bolsonaro's presidency, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon were burned—a portion of the jungle equal to the size of Lebanon.
The president has also gutted regulations protecting the Amazon, with his administration reducing fines for illegal logging by 42%.
Environmental defenders, including many members of Indigenous tribes, have come under attack for trying to defend the forest, which serves as a crucial carbon sink for the planet as well as a habitat for more than three million species including 2,500 tree species.
As Common Dreams reported last month, 20 environmental defenders in Brazil were killed in 2020, with several of the murders linked to the logging sector.
"We're saying as a result of the state policy that they are pursuing they are knowingly aiding and abetting the perpetrators on the ground committing crimes such as murder, persecution, and other inhumane acts," lawyer Nigel Povoas, who has prosecuted international crimes, told AFP.
Previously, Indigenous leaders in Brazil have issued formal complaints regarding Bolsonaro's alleged crimes against humanity at the ICC; in January, Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapo people and Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui of the Paiter Surui tribe accused the president fueling the "the assassination of Indigenous leaders," which was at an 11-year high, as well as deforestation.
AllRise said the complaint filed on Tuesday was the first to underscore the effects that Bolsonaro's attacks on the Amazon are having on the planet as a whole.
According to the organization, the emissions caused by Bolsonaro's policies will cause over 180,000 deaths related to excess heat this century.
"What's happening in Brazil—mass deforestation—we want to understand the causal link to the global climate," Wesemann told AFP Tuesday. "It is exactly what the Rome Statute defines as a crime against humanity: the intentional destruction of the environment and environmental defenders."
We are writing as Google and Amazon employees of conscience from diverse backgrounds. We believe that the technology we build should work to serve and uplift people everywhere, including all of our users. As workers who keep these companies running, we are morally obligated to speak out against violations of these core values. For this reason, we are compelled to call on the leaders of Amazon and Google to pull out of Project Nimbus and cut all ties with the Israeli military. So far, more than 90 workers at Google and more than 300 at Amazon have signed this letter internally. We are anonymous because we fear retaliation.
We have watched Google and Amazon aggressively pursue contracts with institutions like the US Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), and state and local police departments. These contracts are part of a disturbing pattern of militarization, lack of transparency and avoidance of oversight.
Continuing this pattern, our employers signed a contract called Project Nimbus to sell dangerous technology to the Israeli military and government. This contract was signed the same week that the Israeli military attacked Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – killing nearly 250 people, including more than 60 children. The technology our companies have contracted to build will make the systematic discrimination and displacement carried out by the Israeli military and government even crueler and deadlier for Palestinians.
Project Nimbus is a $1.2bn contract to provide cloud services for the Israeli military and government. This technology allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
The US House of Representatives gave final approval on Tuesday to a Senate-passed bill temporarily raising the government’s borrowing limit to $28.9tn, putting off the risk of default at least until early December.
Democrats, who narrowly control the House, maintained party discipline to pass the hard-fought, $480bn debt limit increase. The vote was along party lines, with every yes from Democrats and every no from Republicans.
Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure into law this week, before 18 October, when the treasury department has estimated it would no longer be able to pay the nation’s debts without congressional action.
The survey by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health also showed that in those last few months, as the US struggled to contain the infectious Delta coronavirus variant, the percentage of households reporting serious financial problems rose to 59% when they had an income under $50,000 a year.
Among those lower-income households, 30% said they had lost all their savings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Reports of serious financial problems were not equal across racial and ethnic groups: 57% of Latinos, 56% of Black people and 50% of Native Americans said they had experienced serious financial problems in the past few months, compared with 29% of white people.
As congressional progressives push back against right-wing Democrats seeking to shrink the size and scope of the Build Back Better Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Tuesday insisted that expanded Medicare benefits must remain part of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.
In a call with journalists reported by The Hill, Sanders (I-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, adamantly declared that dental, hearing, and vision benefits must be added to Medicare as part of the Democrats' flagship package.
"This to me is not negotiable," he said. "This is what the American people want."
Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, backed Sanders—the group's only Senate member—saying his stance is also "the position of the House Progressive Caucus."
Sanders, in recent tweets, has pointed to polling showing that expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision is overwhelmingly popular, with 84% of U.S. voters supporting the proposal. A new survey published Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation also found that 83% of respondents favor empowering Medicare to leverage its prodigious purchasing power to secure lower prescription drug prices.
Sanders noted industry opposition to Medicare expansion during Tuesday's call.
"I do understand that the healthcare industry does not like this idea, but maybe, just maybe, we stand with the American people," he said.
Promising to speak the truth about American history, Kamala Harris told the National Congress of American Indians the Biden administration would not shy from a history since the first arrival of European explorers that she said was “shameful”. The US vice-president also highlighted an “epidemic” of murders of Native American women and girls, which she said “must end”.
Harris delivered a virtual address the day after a federal holiday originally named for Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who arrived in the Americas in 1492. ...
“Since 1934, every October, the United States has recognized the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americas. But that is not the whole story. That has never been the whole story.
“Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetrating violence, stealing land and spreading disease. We must not shy away from this shameful past. We must shed light on it and do everything we can to address the impact of the past on Native communities today.” ...
Native Americans, she said, “serve at the highest levels of our nation’s government … serve in our nation’s military at the highest rates of any group [and] do the work that we know is essential to make our nation work, and still Native Americans are more likely to live in poverty, to be unemployed and often struggle to get quality healthcare and to find affordable housing.
“This persistent inequity, this persistent injustice is not right. And the pandemic has only made it worse.”
Paddy Moloney, the Irish musician who co-founded and led the globally successful folk music group the Chieftains, has died aged 83.
The Irish Traditional Music Archive announced the news, saying he “made an enormous contribution to Irish traditional music, song and dance … Few people can lay claim to having the level of impact Paddy Moloney had on the vibrancy of traditional music throughout the world. What a wonderful musical legacy he has left us.”
Formed in 1962 with Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy, Moloney played Irish instruments including the uilleann pipes and bodhrán. Signed to Island Records who connected them with a US audience, the group helped to re-popularise their country’s traditional music, collaborating with everyone from Mick Jagger to Luciano Pavarotti, and winning six Grammy awards from 18 nominations.
Moloney remained the only original member, touring and recording for nearly six decades with the group.
Residents of a majority-Black city in Michigan have been advised by the state not to use tap water for drinking, bathing, or cooking “out of an abundance of caution” owing to lead contamination. For at least three years, residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, have been suffering from lead-contaminated water with what experts describe as insufficient intervention from state and local officials.
This month, the state promised to expand free water distribution in the city and reaffirmed its commitment to comply with federal lead regulations. Activists, who say Benton Harbor’s poor water quality is a sign of environmental injustice and have been calling on the state to take action for years, say these are steps in the right direction, but more remains to be done.
In 2018, Benton Harbor was found to have lead contamination of 22 parts per billion (ppb) in its tap water – far higher than the federal action level of 15 ppb and higher, even, than nearby Flint at the height of its water crisis. No level of lead exposure is considered safe; the federal action level is a national standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine which water systems must take action to lower its lead levels. ...
The federal involvement has triggered a more assertive response from the state, according to Cyndi Roper, Michigan senior policy advocate for the NRDC. “It is clear that EPA’s involvement is driving this forward,” Roper said. “The state has not responded to this for three years in a way that protected residents. It wasn’t until EPA headquarters got involved that we have begun to see an urgent response.”
China plans to build more coal-fired power plants and has hinted that it will rethink its timetable to slash emissions, in a significant blow to the UK’s ambitions for securing a global agreement on phasing out coal at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow. In a statement after a meeting of Beijing’s National Energy Commission, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, stressed the importance of regular energy supply, after swathes of the country were plunged into darkness by rolling blackouts that hit factories and homes.
While China has published plans to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, the statement hinted that the energy crisis had led the Communist party to rethink the timing of this ambition, with a new “phased timetable and roadmap for peaking carbon emissions”.
China has previously set out plans to be carbon neutral by 2060, with emissions peaking by 2030, a goal analysts say would involve shutting 600 coal-fired power plants. President Xi Jinping has also pledged to stop building coal plants abroad.
“Energy security should be the premise on which a modern energy system is built and and the capacity for energy self-supply should be enhanced,” the statement said. “Given the predominant place of coal in the country’s energy and resource endowment, it is important to optimise the layout for the coal production capacity, build advanced coal-fired power plants as appropriate in line with development needs, and continue to phase out outdated coal plants in an orderly fashion. Domestic oil and gas exploration will be intensified.”
Beijing’s ambitions for carbon dioxide output are seen as critical in the push to achieve global net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and fulfil the 2015 Paris agreement to limit average temperature rises to 1.5C. But Li said Beijing wanted to gather new evidence on when its peak emissions would be reached. The statement said he had commissioned “in-depth studies and calculations in light of the recent handling of electricity and coal supply strains, to put forward a phased timetable and roadmap for peaking carbon emissions”.
Two dozen fossil fuel infrastructure projects that President Joe Biden can block via executive action would produce as much annual greenhouse gas pollution as 404 coal-fired power plants—or the equivalent of roughly 20% of all 2019 U.S. emissions—according to a report published Tuesday.
The Oil Change International briefing found that the combined greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the analyzed projects—which include the Line 3, Dakota Access, and Mountain Valley pipelines and 20 liquified gas terminals—"would be larger than all current U.S. coal power plants combined, moving the United States away from Paris agreement commitments."
The total estimated emissions of the two dozen projects are far greater than those of the 294 coal-fired power plants currently operating in the continental United States, the report found.
The Biden administration "will make decisions on these and additional projects in the next three years," the paper notes. "Stopping these fossil fuel infrastructure projects would prevent a drastic increase in GHG pollution at a time when it is imperative to decrease GHG emissions to adhere to domestic and international climate goals and commitments, including the Paris agreement that President Biden rejoined."
Evacuation orders were expanded Tuesday for a growing wildfire driven by intense winds that has shut down a key southern California highway for more than a day. At least 200 firefighters battled the Alisal fire, which had scorched 8,000 acres (12.5 sq miles) along coastal Santa Barbara county and remained completely uncontained.
The fire erupted Monday on a ridge and blasted toward the ocean, forcing closure of US 101, the only major highway on that section of the coast.
“There’s a lot of dead, decadent, receptive fuel beds in the area where this fire started,” said Andrew Madsen, a public information officer with Los Padres national forest, who noted the area where the fire started hadn’t burned in decades. Evacuation orders have been issued for residents in Refugio Canyon and the El Capitan state park and El Capitan campground are closed, while hundreds of homes, ranches, and other structures remain under threat.
Strong winds, with gusts reaching up to 70 mph, drove the fire down to the ocean and prevented aircraft from battling the blaze from above, officials said.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Peg Leg Sam - Fast Freight Train
Peg Leg Sam w/ Louisiana Red - Navaho Trail
Peg Leg Sam - Ain't But One Thing Give a Man the Blues
Peg Leg Sam - Walking Cane
Peg Leg Sam - Lost John (Live)
Peg Leg Sam w/Louisiana Red - Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho
Peg Leg Sam - Reuben
Peg Leg Sam - "Peg's Fox Chase"
Baby Tate - See What You Done Done (with Peg Leg Sam, hca)
Peg Leg Sam with Baby Tate - Who's That Left Here 'While Ago